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Stage Dragon Review: Pride & Prejudice – Guildford Shakespeare Company

Published on: 9 Feb, 2024
Updated on: 12 Feb, 2024

GSC’s Pride & Prejudice (actors Luke Barton and April Hughes). All photos: Mark Dean

By Martin Giles

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a town in possession of any cultural ambition must desire a theatre company of the quality of the Guildford Shakespeare Company.

Once again the GSC has proved this to be true with its production of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, a new adaptation of the well known and much-loved story by Abigail Pickard Price, who also directed.

The entire cast (left to right): Sarah Gobran, Luke Barton and April Hughes.

So how could the GSC make it fresh and more entertaining? Well by reducing the normal cast of over 25 players to just three! Yes three, to play all five sisters, mother, father, Mr Darcy and all the other suitors, the snobby Lady Catherine, various servants, uncle Tom Cobley and all.

This obviously posed a huge challenge. It was met with wonderfully skilful acting, stagecraft and choreography. No wonder a “movement director”, Amy Lawrence, was required. She did a great job. There was a reliance on split second timing throughout.

Sarah Gobran as Mrs Bennet and Luke Barton, this time as the Rev’d Collins.

The quick changes of character and gender produced many intentionally farcical moments but the endearing story of the “will they, won’t they” relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy was still wonderfully told – with fun poked at pomposity, pride and prejudice as well as other foibles of human nature.

Enormous credit must go to the three actors: April Hughes and Luke Barton both appearing with the GSC for the first time, and Sarah Gobran, whose range of acting talents we have been lucky to witness over the last 18 years since she founded GSC with Matt Pinches.

April Hughes as Elizabeth Bennet

Hughes is every bit the endearing, intelligent Georgian maiden not prepared to submit to the pressure of convention and accept just any suitor until his worth is proven.

And Barton’s fast role-switching adaptability has to be seen to be believed. He finds separate characteristics in each part to help the audience follow the story and suspend their incredulity sufficiently while being simultaneously amused.

Gobran effortlessly keeps up, one minute Mrs Bennet, the next second one of her daughters, her comic timing perfect.

As well as the cast, the whole production of the play, in the wonderful setting of Guildford’s fine Georgian church, used to effect a visual feast, along with the welcome from all the front of house team also deserve mention.

My only slight reservation would be that this production is probably not for those who have not read the book or seen one of the various films or plays, presented more conventionally. But for those that have it is a great evening’s entertainment as shown by the enthusiastic and deserved audience reaction.

GSC’s Pride & Prejudice is running until February 24. Click here to book.

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